Nationals 8, Braves 7 (15 innings)

So that’s what losing to the Nationals feels like. It had been awhile: since May 31st, actually. On that night Stephen Strasburg injured himself and Craig Stammen got the win. Last night, Stephen Strasburg got himself thrown out of the game and Craig Stammen got the win. If only the Nationals could replicate that blueprint into something approaching a trend, they’d be getting somewhere.

It may, however, be more difficult to replicate last night’s game than at first glance. The teams’ respective aces faced off, and neither survived the 2nd inning. Mike Minor was ineffective. Strasburg, as I just mentioned, got tossed. And then the game went 15 innings.

Regarding Minor: the Nationals jumped all over him, and it was perhaps uglier than even his ugly line suggests. Minor recorded only 5 outs on 67 pitches. When he threw strikes, the Nats hitters killed the ball; when he threw balls, they didn’t swing. Altogether the 25- year old gave up 4 runs, walked 4 guys, surrendered 4 hits, and struck out 2. It was probably just one of those nights – cold-ish, damp, and largely meaningless – but it’s nevertheless hard for a team to win when its starter gets shelled and lifted before the 2nd inning ends.

To their credit, the Braves battled back, and they did so largely on the back of the long ball. Jason Heyward, who is absolutely terrorizing pitchers right now – fun fact: Heyward has posted a .306/.378/.512 triple slash since June 1st; he’s also 4th in the majors in fWAR over the past 30 days – led the home half of the 1st off with a monster shot to right-center field; Brian McCann added a two-run shot of his own in the 6th; and Freddie Freeman, feeling left out, obliterated a Tyler Clippard pitch in the 8th to straightaway center. But even with those home runs, and even with the run Strasburg gifted to Atlanta in the 2nd – he walked Jordan Schafer, and then allowed the diminutive outfielder to circle the bases as he went all Ankiel on the mound, and then got tossed out of the uncertainty surrounding his sudden “wildness” – the Nationals maintained their lead.

They maintained their lead until the 26th out, anyway. At that point Heyward stepped to the plate with one on and two outs, and promptly hit the ball 415 feet to almost the exact same spot to which he homered in the 1st. Tie game. Free baseball. Yet hibernation mode, unfortunately, to follow.

Ultimately, the Nationals won a war of attrition. It was Adam LaRoche who delivered the big blow for them: he hit a home run off Kris Medlen in the top half of the 15th inning. As for Atlanta, the hitters apparently decided that 7 runs in 9 innings was quite enough, for they tallied a grand total of 2 singles and 2 walks over the next 6 innings. Nobody could get the big hit – perhaps it was because everyone was trying too hard to get the big hit – and in the end the good guys fell just a bit short. These things happen. They tend to happen especially when Marvin Hudson is calling balls and strikes. But while these things happen, losing to the Nationals always feels unnecessary.

The rubber match begins in a few short hours. Hopefully the starters got their sleep, because their teams need them to go deep into this one.

138 thoughts on “Nationals 8, Braves 7 (15 innings)”

  1. I noticed last night that Jason is holding the bat a bit differently – more away from his body and more wrist-cock. I think he’s getting more bat speed out of this setup. If he hits like this we’re really hard to beat (unless our starter goes 2 innings).

  2. The line up per DOB:

    David O’Brien ‏@ajcbraves 9m
    #Braves lineup: BUpton 8 Gosselin 4 Freeman 3 Gattis 7 CJohnson 5 Laird 2 Terdoslavich 9 Janish 6 Teheran 1

    Makes sense to sit Heyward after hitting 2 homeruns yesterday. This might be the most Sunday of all of the Sunday lineups

  3. Incidentally, Evan Gattis, since the end of May: .206/.277/.318. It’s only 119 plate appearances, but still. Dude hasn’t adjusted yet.

  4. Every first pitch to Gattis is a breaking ball, which he knows is coming, and he still swings and misses. I think the lack of regular ABs is hurting his adjustment period. Hopefully he’ll get it figured out. We still need him.

  5. Just saw that the Dodgers won again – they are a ridiculous 42-8 over their last 50 games, and Kershaw lowered his ERA to 1.80 by shutting out the Phillies. I’m hoping that they are peaking too soon.

  6. I agree with his struggles on breaking pitches. His pinch-hit AB two nights ago was 7 pitches. 6 were breaking pitches, and he got 1 fastball. The league has figured out that you don’t throw him a fastball inside, and he’ll get himself out on breaking pitches away. Until he learns to do something with breaking pitches, I think he’ll continue to struggle. I mean, would you throw Gattis a fastball?

  7. In fact, if you were locating your breaking pitches, would you throw BJ, Justin, Uggla, or Gattis a fastball? I’d like to see the pitch selections by pitchers who have thrown great games against us. I’m confident they’re throwing less than 50% fastballs.

  8. Really hope the Braves can bring back McCann this offseason. They don’t really have any other big needs to fill, so they should be able to focus on that.

  9. That game was so dull in the middle I took the 4th through 7th off. And really, once it went past 10 I didn’t really care who won given the overall state of affairs. At best it’s a Pyrrhic victory for the Nats as they don’t have an off day until the 26th. I would be quite interested in hearing some explanation from the Nats regarding Strasburg though.

  10. @13

    What little I’ve seen has revolved around the long layoff for the top of the second causing him to lose the ability to pitch suddenly. He’s not injured and there was nothing weird going on as far as trying to send a message or refusing to send a message after being told or being upset about the pitching coach yelling at him and intentionally getting ejected because of it or whatever other theories were going on last night, if you believe them. I don’t know what else you’d expect them to say, though, except they might admit it if he was injured.

    I personally think the stacking of coincidence upon coincidence makes it a little hard to believe. I would guess that one of the aforementioned three theories (that was the plan, Strasburg mutinied against the plan, or Strasburg mutinied altogether and it didn’t have anything to do with the beanball war other than using it to take an easy ejection) is the correct one, but I don’t know that I’d favor one over the other, particularly.

  11. Most surprising thing from last night: Kris Medlen didn’t get a walk-off hit. It seemed like it was the only thing the game was missing.

  12. The whole sequence was really weird, and I’d certainly never seen it before. However, I think it’s impossible to know what was going on in the dugout, and I think it’s pretty futile to try to speculate.

    What a weird situation for the umpire to be put in. He had to have been clueless as to what Strasburg was trying to do, and he had no choice but to run him. Just weird.

  13. I think today’s lineup is exactly what Fredi should have out there considering this series, last nights game, weatther, and our lead in the division.

  14. @23 Today’s line up may be as effective as starting a soft throwing lefty against the Barves. It can work.

  15. @20, last time through town for WSN. They’ll play today if it takes all night. There will be enough breaks in the weather to get it done.

  16. @20

    We kind of have to play today, as Washington doesn’t come back here this year. It’s likely that this one game won’t matter for the standings at the end of the year, but they’re not generally in the business of completely cancelling games (or moving them to the other team’s site, which is more or less equivalent to cancelling it from our perspective) unless there’s no other option.

    It’s just gonna be light to moderate showers all day, seemingly, so they’ll get the game started and play through it.

  17. Would be a great day for B.J. Upton to have one of those games where he teases the fans with just how good he could be.

  18. Well, the old timey fans who complain about how the Braves don’t play enough small ball and live by the homerun too much…today will be their day.

  19. Entering today, Gattis’ babip was 30-50 points below average. He’s due for another hot streak.

  20. Gattis is also 7th in baseball in O-Swing% – only 6 players swing at more pitches outside the strike zone – and has a very low Line Drive Percentage of 15.6%. If he doesn’t change his approach, he will continue to post below average BABIPs.

  21. Good job getting out of those two shitstorms, Julio. Now, can we please have a couple of normal innings so that you can at least get through 5-6 innings?

  22. So I read Strasburg’s quotes last night, but Fox Sports South just showed video of his comments, and after watching them, it’s pretty clear that something was, in fact, going on. His desperately trying to keep from smiling during the whole thing kind of gives it away, as well as the overall tone of the comments. Still don’t know exactly what was going on and how the pitching coach’s visit played into it, but it’s clear it wasn’t just him losing the ability to pitch.

  23. @35

    perfect analogy…

    it’s no mystery – he was told to hit him, refused to do so, this was the way out.

  24. Julio has been alternating brilliance with mediocrity with every pitch.

    And how about that. Where was the infield fly rule?

  25. That’s it. Alex Wood is starting in the playoffs for Mike Minor AND for Julio Teheran.

  26. First of all, I meant to say that he sucks until he gets two men on-base with nobody out, obviously.

    Second, for anybody who thinks that the infield fly call last year was the right one, that play was exactly like the play last year except it was actually close enough to the infield to get a force play on (which last year’s wasn’t) and it wasn’t called. Your move, Eric Karros and Harold Reynolds and Joe Buck and that former umpire ESPN hired to confirm every single umpire’s call made in last year’s playoffs!

  27. @46

    Absolutely. But I didn’t think the call should have been made last year, and didn’t think it should have been made today.

  28. @48

    Oh, I agree. I’m just pointing out the incongruity.

    @47

    No, but if HP umpire Wally Bell didn’t issue a pregame warning, he certainly made clear at the lineup exchange that he wouldn’t be tolerating a whole lot of BS today.

  29. Evan has got to stop swinging at the pitch at his eyes.

    The guy hits ONE for a homerun, and now he’s going to swing and miss at 400 more of them.

  30. Regarding the trivia question, “40 Man Active Roster” is a contradiction in terms.

  31. @53

    If you’re referring to the batter’s interference, I think that may be the most clear-cut case of batter’s interference on an SB attempt that I’ve ever seen.

    EDIT: Yay, a clean inning!

  32. The shine on Gattis is not so bright anymore. Don’t understand why Fredi sent Gosselin. I know it might be the move to make, but you got to understand your batter at the plate and what he’s been doing lately.

  33. Evan is having the worst birthday EVER. Grounds in to a double play, strikes-out-interferes in to a double play. PLUS, he would have an error, except that Janish was able to get an out at 3rd on it.

    All that’s left is to get hit by a pitch, and then get picked off first. And, I guess, to make an actual scorebook error.

  34. This crew has definitely been imaginative with their strike-zones this weekend. I get that both teams theoretically are dealing with the same guy, but that provides little solace.

  35. @55 It would have been if he hadn’t stopped before touching him, then lunged forward just to get the call. Easily could have thrown the ball the first time if he wanted to.

  36. Bleh. I wanted Julio to go get this guy, and let Gonzalez (or a pinch hitter) lead off next inning.

  37. @64 – I think (if he gets Gonzalez here) he gets to face Span and Rendon next inning, and gets yanked before Harper and Werth come up.

    EDIT: Of course, needing 6 pitches to get Gonzalez doesn’t help his cause, any. Neither did the effectiveness of those 6 pitches help him

  38. The Janish-Gosselin double play combo is not likely to be one of those eternal fixtures in Braves lore.

  39. Janish did a great job, I think Gosselin either got handcuffed by the feed, forcing him to rush and get nothing on the throw, or he might just have a crummy arm.

  40. Ya know, when you’ve been struggling all day, and you finally get something going.. That’s EXACTLY the time you need to STOP doing what’s finally started working, and start doing something different.

  41. If we can get some lockdown relief from Walden and Kimbrel (assuming those guys are both available) and we retired their guys in order, we won’t have to see Harper or Werth at the plate again.

  42. Thought that throw beat him.

    Looking at the replay, it was a slow tag. Throw beat him, it looked like Desmond was expecting Success to just slide into him so he didn’t move his glove. Dummy.

  43. Wow, replay shows he made it. Desmond might have taken that throw a little too far in front. Could have let it travel another foot and he mighta had him.

  44. Tracy swipe-tagged before he even got there!

    The throw beat him and Tracy waved it by the bag while Jordan was still about a foot away.

    EDIT: And Jason couldn’t have ended that rally faster if he was trying to.

  45. Just trying to do too much. Swung at a terrible pitch on the first pitch, got fooled on the second pitch and slowed his bat down and just tapped it right to the 2b.

  46. Okay! Great work by Walden. That puts Kimbrel in a position to face a PH, Span and Rendon and leave the power bats on the bench.

    Although, the PH might be Zimmerman.

  47. Could we have a huge inning here to save an outing from Kimbrel? And if that’s too greedy, can we at least get another run?

    EDIT: Well, that was pointless.

  48. I hope Simmons will be as terrible as Desmond someday.

    Desmond in ’13: .276/.329/.470 (.799) with 17 HR.
    Simmons in ’13: .241/.288/.358 (.646) with 11 HR.

  49. Three outs in 4 pitches.

    If you add in Heyward’s double play, that’s 5 outs in the last 6 pitches.

  50. Kimbrel looks good. His breaking ball is the best it’s been lately, and he’s gassing up at 98-99 with command. Normally if he throws 99, it’s in the batters box.

  51. He’s got a strange sense of sarcasm. That, or he’s saying “uncle.”

    #Nats Bryce Harper on ATL this weekend: "I love these fans. I really do. They're absolutely unbelievable for their team"— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) August 18, 2013

  52. I’m not joking: Harper just said “You gotta be kidding me, bro.”

    “Clown call, bro” would have been funnier.

  53. Re: Harper’s tweets.

    Combined attendance in Washington, hosting the Phillies, last weekend: 92,876.
    Combined attendance in Atlanta, hosting the Nationals: 103,750.

    So maybe he was genuinely complimenting the Braves and their fans, while gently conceding the Nationals ought to be doing better than they are?

  54. Braves fans got tagged with the “complacent, spoiled babies who don’t sell out playoff games” tag in the late 1990s and early 2000’s. Round that to 2000 even for simplicity’s sake.

    In 2000 Bryce Harper was seven. Years old. SEVEN!

  55. Interesting comments by Harper. Maybe he needs a Colby Rasmus-style change of pace in ATL. The guy may be an arrogant douche, but I’d kill to have him in the Braves OF. Hey, he said he’d be stoked to play here. Get it done, Wren! But who do they trade?

  56. Another 3-day-in-a-roll appearances for Kimbrel…I really wish Fredi can slow Kimbrel down a bit. This is already his 10th appearance this month and we will have more than 10 days to go. Fredi has been very good this year in keeping him fresh, I hope he wouldn’t burn out Kimbrel by the time August is over…or he is hoping for a bigger bullpen in September so he would have the luxury to slow Kimbrel down.

  57. @136

    I’m not really worried about it. Fredi always makes sure not to use him on four-in-a-row. At some point, we’ll win some games by more than three or we’ll lose a few more and he’ll get more rest. You had to use him today and yesterday, and it didn’t make sense not to on Friday. You had to use him in Game 3 vs. Philly, and it didn’t make sense not to in Game 2. Before that, he had five days of rest, including a game that we could’ve pitched him, but didn’t.

    RE: Harper

    While I think it’s possible he’s sarcastically trolling us, it’s kind of sad that we’re so conditioned to think that we Braves fans suck as a collective that when someone tries to complement us, we refuse to accept the compliment thinking that no one could possibly think that.

    As the Nats have been our main division rival the last two years, every time the Nats have come down here we’ve had good crowds. Additionally, every time we go up there, the crowd is at least 25 percent Braves fans. He’s only really been in the league since we’ve been playoff-caliber again, he saw what happened during the infield-fly incident last year (and given his personality, it seems likely he approved). He comes in this week and the entire city sneers at the site of him, even when the entire dumb situation is probably our fault. I think it’s entirely possible that he’s impressed with us as fans.

    I mean, as Sam said, the entire perception of us as horrible fans reached a head 12-13 years ago, and he’s 20 years old. The 2001 NLCS probably doesn’t mean much to him.

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